By Dan Catchpole Herald Writer
EVERETT — Windspeed Technologies, a local aerospace engineering firm, has figured out a way to give flyers a 360-degree view of the heavens.
The company’s solution is called the Skydeck — a glass canopy on top of a passenger jet with room for one or two seats. The design was inspired by a fighter jet’s sleek canopy.
Windspeed’s president and founder Shakil Hussain came up with the concept in 2014 after spending too many hours on crowded intercontinental flights.
“Think if you could go up into the Skydeck, lie back and take in the Milky Way,” he said.
The stars, after all, look much clearer at 35,000 feet up, he added.
Since being unveiled earlier this year, the Skydeck has attracted much interest. The popular weatherman Al Roker highlighted it this month during a segment on The Weather Channel, calling it a “stairway to heaven.” Airbus Corporate Jets contacted Windspeed about offering the Skydeck to its customers. The firm is talking to Boeing Business Jets, and to aftermarket suppliers, including Greenpoint Technologies.
“Airbus called us,” Hussain said and paused. “ ‘Airbus called us’ — those are beautiful words.”
That is a big part of why the company put the time and resources into developing the Skydeck, which could easily have stayed a daydream. It showcases Windspeed Technologies’ capabilities for finding and delivering creative engineering solutions.
Hussain and his two partners are focused on turning the Everett-based company from a small engineer staffing agency into a direct Boeing supplier, what the aerospace giant calls Tier 1 suppliers.
Hussain started the company in Bothell in 2006. Most of its work comes from providing engineers to aerospace companies to work on specific projects. In 2011, the company had 28 engineers, most of who were supporting Boeing suppliers on the 787 Dreamliner program. Windspeed has 16 people today and contracts to provide engineering support with six companies.
In 2012, the company set out to become a full-service firm that could design and deliver finished engineering projects, rather than simply doing other people’s “grunt work,” Hussain said. The company has already won some in-house work.
In June, the company earned the technical qualifications, known as AS9100-C, needed to become a Tier 1 Boeing supplier. There is more to getting work than just certifications, though.
“It’s all about relationships in this industry,” said Bruce Stewart, Windspeed’s director of engineering.
Hussain, Stewart and Vice President Hisashi Ebata own the company.
“At some point, we will break into Boeing because we will have something they want,” Stewart said.
To get there, the company has to compete with Boeing and other aerospace companies for talented engineers. Windspeed Technologies might not pay quite as much as Boeing, but as it gets more in-house work, it can give engineers more chances to create, he said.
“The other thing with a small company, I can park right outside,” Stewart said during an interview at Windspeed’s office near Boeing’s Everett factory. “I can see my car out the window.”
Also, if an engineer invents something that could be marketable, the company will fund its development and split the royalties with the employee, Hussain said.
“We want to fill this office up with creative engineers doing fun, inventive work,” he said.
He is not worried about competing with bigger, better known companies for talented engineers.
“May the best parking win,” Hussain said.